Lieutenant governor's accuser says she has nothing to gain

Published: Apr. 2, 2019 at 1:46 PM EDT
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The second of two women to accuse Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax of sexual assault said she had been friends with him for more than a year before he locked her in a room and raped her.

"I completely trusted him," Meredith Watson said through tears in an interview aired Tuesday on "CBS This Morning." She reiterated her accusation that Fairfax raped her when both were students at Duke University in 2000. "It was a huge betrayal. He was my friend. I don't understand how you do that to someone that you've been a friend to."

Fairfax says his encounters with both Watson and his initial accuser, Vanessa Tyson, were consensual, and says he took a polygraph test that determined he's telling the truth.

But Watson said Tuesday that Fairfax held her down during the attack, and said that "if you have to hold someone down, it's not consensual."

She also said she has nothing to gain by going public; indeed, she said she's been subjected to intense scrutiny, and faced particular criticism as a black woman because her accusations have tarred the reputation of Fairfax, who also is black.

"You're seen as betraying your race. You're seen as betraying a black man," she told interviewer Gayle King. "But there's no recognition a black man has betrayed you."

The Associated Press typically does not identify people who say they were sexually assaulted, but Tyson and Watson stepped forward voluntarily and have expressed a desire to testify in public.

The women leveled their allegations against Fairfax at a moment when he seemed poised to ascend to the governor's post. Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam was facing numerous calls to resign after a racist photo showing a person in blackface and another in a Ku Klux Klan costume was found on his medical school yearbook page.

Then, the next in line after Fairfax, Attorney General Mark Herring, acknowledged that he appeared in a photo wearing blackface as a student at the University of Virginia, and the prospect of all three statewide officeholders leaving and handing power to Republicans cooled demands for their resignations. Northam, Fairfax and Herring, all Democrats, have remained in office and at the head of their party ahead of November elections in which Democrats hope to gain control of the state Legislature.

Tyson, who said Fairfax forced her to perform oral sex in 2004 and whose interview with CBS aired Monday, joined Watson in calling for an open hearing in the General Assembly in which they and Fairfax can testify and the public can evaluate who is truthful. Fairfax says a law enforcement investigation is the better path.

"My accusers have not filed criminal charges and they have not sued me," Fairfax said in a written statement. "Instead, we see escalating media appearances and stated desire for a political process that is unprecedented in Virginia and could not be designed to get at the truth. Such a process would instead be a media circus used for partisan and political purposes."